Hazing: Softening Led to Decline of Frat

ByABC News

Oct. 17, 2003 -- For Jared Howe, abusive hazing created a strong bond with his pledge brothers. He writes ABCNEWS.com that softening the initiation rites weakened that bond.

When I was in college at DePauw University, I joined a fraternity and was subjected to hazing. But hazing can constitute so many things that I think it's important to list exactly what happened.

We were lined up and yelled at by active members if they thought we did not do good on a pledge test or were lax in performing our duties (cleaning the house, conducting interviews with active members, etc.).

There were also a number of "fun" hazing activities, which usually meant wearing funny clothing to class, or doing some specific task for the actives.

During our subsequent years at the fraternity, as actives we decided to not subject pledges to "line-ups" and to not yell at them or demean them.

What was interesting is that subsequent pledge classes did not bond as closely as we did and did not take being a member of the fraternity as seriously as we did. This lackluster attitude, in part, led to the eventual decline of our fraternity.

In hindsight, I would have probably allowed the hazing to continue as it had with us, although I probably would not have taken a direct role in it.

It's a fine line: you want the pledges to go through hardships so they bond and come together as a group, and only through subjecting them to a certain amount of strife can they do that. On the other hand, of course you don't want to subject them to anything that crosses the line between simple hazing and outright cruelty.

I don't think outlawing all kinds of hazing is the answer to the problem. Some schools frown on any type of hazing, such as being forced to wear funny clothes to class, or do work that actives are not also asked to do.

But when I look back at what I had to endure, I don't think of it as bad in any way.

Were there jerks in the house? Sure. Did they take advantage of hazing to be a jerk? Sure, but the vast majority of the guys only wanted us to love the house and respect it like they did.

Hazing, having to endure trials and tribulations thrown to us by the active members, showed us that we had to work hard to become a member of the house. It brought us together as a pledge class that even today remains close.

In its purest form, hazing is a ritual of transformation. It's about enduring hardship and emerging on the other side as a changed person.

Do some people push it too far? Yes. Should there be guidelines and policies to protect the initiates? Yes. But should it be abolished in all forms? I don't think so.

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